Birthing a human, pt. 3: Learning to love

Around 7:00am on July 29th, 2016, the nurses started setting up my room for delivery. I don’t remember the details, but I remember the rush of emotion when they told me it was time. When I had gone to sleep around 1:30am, I was 2-3 centimeters dilated after being in the hospital for almost twelve hours. I didn’t expect the nurse to tell me I was fully dilated and ready to go. I remember lying on my left side (my epidural only worked on my right side, so the nurse was having me lie on my left to let gravity help), holding my husband’s hand. I started to tear up just because of the sheer overwhelming-ness of it all. The most fundamental shift in anyone’s life—the moment you become a parent—was about to happen.

My OB was in to check on me around the time the nurses started getting the room ready for delivery. Sometimes pushing can take hours for first time moms, but for some reason, she decided to wait to see how pushing went for me. I think I start pushing around 7:15am, but honestly my memory of the timeline is a bit blurry. I have very vivid memories of a few select moments though. My OB asking if I wanted a mirror. What I saw in the mirror. My OB asking for soap (was it soap? I think so…) when A started crowning (apparently, they wash the baby’s head a bit. Not sure if it’s to make them smell nice or lubricant, lol). My OB strettchinnggg me. The sensation that my urethra was about to explode as he came out. Yelling “FUCK” when I thought my urethra was ripping (btw, I’m assuming that’s the ‘ring of fire’ people talk about). My OB saying “7:33am”.

When my OB placed him on my chest, I started crying right away. But honestly—and this is the main point I want to make today—not because I felt that wave of love that everyone talks about. I don’t even know why I started crying, probably just an overwhelming combination of hormones, relief, and excitement. In so many movies or from older women, you hear about this rush of intense love you get the first time you hold your baby. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt,” they say. In that moment, though, sure I loved A, but just because I knew I was now responsible for him. If you asked me later that day if I loved A or our dogs more, I probably would have said I love them about the same.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok that I didn’t have the “right” emotions at the time. It’s ok that the intense, maternal love that makes you want to scream, punch anyone who would hurt him, dance, laugh, and cry all in one moment took a while to develop. There is no “right” way to bond with your newborn. If you feel that rush of scream-sobbing love as soon as your baby is placed on your chest, that’s awesome. If it takes you a few hours, days, or weeks, that’s awesome, too. It will come though! And, man, it is the best.


P.S. In previous posts (here and here), I’ve touched on how I cultivate a positive outlook on childbirth and how race & class privilege have shaped that positive outlook.

Birthing a human, pt. 2: Race & Class

There’s a quiet crisis in American childbirth currently: Black women die in childbirth in disproportionately large numbers. In Texas, Black women make up around 11% of births but over 28% of maternal deaths. Numbers are similar around the nation, and activists and media have recently been drawing attention to these numbers. While the rate of maternal death is still overall extremely low in the United States, rates have been increasing since the 1970s. (read more here & here).

The tone of this blog post seems to be in stark contrast to the tone of my last blog post about birth. I argued in the last blog post that women need to cultivate positive, affirming narratives/images of pregnancy and birth in their lives—that anxiety and fear don’t need to be the primary emotions of childbirth and pregnancy. I stand by that message.

But that perspective is clearly one positioned in race and class privilege. In my last blog post, I wrote “I felt in control” and “my doctor…respected me.” I grew up surrounded by physicians. My mother is a doctor. Many of our closest family friends are doctors. I have aunts that are nurses and physicians. Now, as an adult, my husband is a doctor. I grew up with familiarity of the medical system and a deeply held belief that it was there to help me and to heal me. I know these to be truths. For me.

But the medical field has a history of both malicious maltreatment and neglect towards more marginalized communities, so it is unsurprising that there is such a large racial disparity in childbirth mortality for Black women. There are millions of Black women who have had positive and affirming childbirth experiences both inside and outside of the medical institutions of the US. Of course, many Black women make their own positive and affirming pregnancy and childbirth experiences, and there are medical providers that support them.

But I want to take time to reflect on moments in my hospital stay when my class or race changed how I was treated (of course, it’s hard to just pick discrete moments–many times race and class privilege changes the underlying tone of interactions. Plus, the fact that my privilege got me into one of the fanciest hospitals in the region…):

  1. When I mentioned to my labor nurse that my husband was an MD/PhD student, she got so nervous that she had to bring the more experienced nurse on shift to do my I.V.
  2. When I was about to get my epidural at 1 a.m., the night nurse told us that my husband would have to stand in front of me so he couldn’t see the procedure, but the anesthesiologist let my husband watch.
  3. My OB offered me a mirror to watch the pushing stage and advocated for me so a nurse went to go get one.
  4. I’m sure there are dozens more…

My privileged experiences is directly related to someone’s discriminatory/damaging experience. Maternal mortality is obviously the extreme and incredibly rare end of the spectrum. But subtle discrimination can have smaller but nonetheless insidious impacts of women of color.

I want there to be a call to action in this blog post—a tangible thing I could do to promote racial justice in childbirth & pregnancy in some small way. I’m not sure what that is honestly though…Any suggestions, as always, are welcome!


Birthing a human

I actually really loved giving birth. And I don’t mean I really liked the end result, but the process sucked. I mean I actually liked GIVING birth. I liked being in labor; I liked pushing. When my OB asked if I wanted a mirror to watch A come out, first I asked ‘Am I going to see myself poop?’ (she assured me no, though I don’t know why I cared), then I said ‘Sure!’.

In the internet world, you often hear this birth-positive narrative from moms who’ve gone the ‘natural’ route (aka, medication-free). I was about as far from a medication-free birth as you can get: I had Pitocin to encourage contractions after my water broke at 38 weeks, and then had an epidural at 2-3 centimeters dilated. One thing I do have in common with women who chose a medication-free birth, though, is that feeling of empowerment: I felt powerful, and I felt in control. I respected my doctor, and she respected me.

Now, I know a lot of this has to do with luck and privilege, which I will get into in future posts. Here, though, I want to say this: how we talk about birth can be an act of social justice. I know this blog is dedicated to mundane moments of parenting, and pregnancy/childbirth is far from mundane. How we TALK about pregnancy/childbirth, though, creeps into daily lives without even realizing it. Through chatting with friends, watching TV, or browsing the internet, images of pregnancy and birth are actually pretty ubiquitous. Outside of the natural birth world, there is a dominant narrative of anxiety and fear around pregnancy/childbirth. It is a huge and demanding physical experience to have, don’t get me wrong. But it is something that our culture teaches women to fear in small ways every day.

Talking about birth in a positive, empowering way isn’t just for women who choose a medication-free birth; it can be for anyone. I would encourage anyone who is pregnant or wants to be pregnant to consciously start curating positive images of pregnancy and birth and censoring the anxiety- and fear-driven ones. Living in a patriarchal society means that women have to be very concerted in their efforts to shape how they think about pregnancy and birth.

At times, during my pregnancy, I did think I was just trying to trick my brain into being positive. That patriarchal fear-driven narrative of pregnancy/birth is a pernicious, insidious thing. There were times when I felt nervous, anxious, and afraid. That’s normal and not something I’m ashamed of. I used mantras, yoga, and mindfulness to get me through that. Other women may use other strategies. You have to find what works for you.

In future posts, I want to reflect on how my Whiteness and class privileges changed how I gave birth and experienced in pregnancy. But today, I want to focus on this one message to anyone who is pregnant:



*P.S. Whenever someone asks me if I need help carrying something now, I often respond, ‘Nah, I’m strong as hell. I literally pushed a human being out of my body once.’ And you can still feel like this if you had a c-section: you literally GREW A HUMAN and had it CUT OUT OF YOU. That makes you badass as hell!